Editorial: CLIL in New contexts

Issue 16 (Autumn 2021), pp. 1-4



Editorial: CLIL in New contexts

Christoph Merkelbach           Tushar Chaudhuri
Technische Universität Darmstadt           Leibniz Universität Hannover

Content & Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) usually refers to the use of a foreign language or a language other than the native language to teach content subjects in secondary and tertiary education classrooms. The approach employed by content and language-integrated teaching can look back on a history of more than two thousand years (viz. Haataja 2010: 1047). It has increasingly become a multi-faceted issue in foreign language education resulting from the huge increase in international mobility and accompanied by new challenges in education theory and practice.

CLIL teaching as a particular form of communicative and task-based foreign language teaching assumes that a language-sensitive subject perspective establishes a greater degree of authenticity of language use (viz. Heine, 2015, p. 16). Learning objectives in CLIL are oriented towards the learning objectives of the subject being taught in the foreign language, aiming at improving foreign language competencies, which not only include linguistic competences (vocabulary, grammar, etc.) and language skills, but also intercultural competencies. It is assumed that CLIL, as an integrative learning situation, produces synergistic effects that create subject, language and intercultural learning of a special and specific quality (viz. Heine, 2015, p. 18)

The focus of research into CLIL usually revolves around the prestige language and content subject combinations, i.e. predominantly English + social sciences. However, in recent decades the combination has increasingly included any given foreign language + STEM, and is strongly associated with current efforts being put towards the internationalization of curricula. The ultimate goal is to prepare graduates for international academic competition and a globally oriented job market.

The current issue of Interface introduces various approaches from experienced practitioners and researchers of CLIL, and covers a wide array of themes. These all involve the teaching of both content and language in tertiary education with a range of different goals in several locations around the world, e.g. Italy, Germany and Taiwan.

In the first article, L’integrazione Italiano-Storia in contesti LS (lingua straniera nel mondo). Forme e pratiche per una didattica consapevole [Integration of Italian and History in a Foreign Language Context. Forms and Practices for Conscious Teaching], Milena Sabato from the University of Salento in Italy reflects on the subject of history being integrated in an Italian as a Foreign Language course in the university’s department of Italian Studies. The author outlines the difficult role that the teacher has in this particular classroom setting, highlighting the need for authentic teaching materials in order to construct linguistic-historical learning paths suited to each learner.

Sarah Olthoff from the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg in Northern Germany, in her contribution titled CLIL in Language Learning Classes: Action- and Product-orientation as an access to subject-sensitive Language Acquisition, describes a pilot survey in a German language learning class. She explores if action- and product-oriented technology lessons affect the language competencies as well as the social and learning behaviour of students as compared to students attending purely theoretical technology lessons. She argues that action- and product-orientated teaching facilitates content-based teaching without neglecting language acquisition in vocational schools.

Karen Fleischhauer from the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany in her paper Conceptualising more explicit university-level oral language communication training with CLIL tutors as mediators in the language classroom addresses a problem that many international STEM students encounter when starting their studies at a German university of technology. Although these students have demonstrated a satisfactory required level of German language skills before enrolling, many of them do not also possess sufficient content language skills in their field of study. This paper focusses on the importance of oral communication in the college-level environment in order to address this issue. The author concentrates on the language of mathematics and discusses how students’ oral communication needs need to first be identified in order to then implement content specific topics in the language classroom. At the same time, CLIL tutors provide these students with meaningful and authentic language and content input.

The fourth article in this issue of interface, written by Anamarija Penzes, also from the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany, has the title Vorlesungen besser verstehen - Einblick in den virtuellen Sprachkurs zum Training des Hör-Sehverstehens der Fachsprachen in MINT-Vorlesungen (MasterPlus PREP) [Understanding lectures better – An overview of a virtual language course for improving listening and visual comprehension of technical/scientific language(s) in STEM lectures]. The author explains that, as one of the most widely used academic forms of knowledge transfer, lectures represent a major linguistic challenge for international STEM students. Her article provides insight into a virtual technical/scientific language course with the aim of improving listening and visual comprehension skills.

Julie Bohec from Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan discusses in her paper La représentation de la Chine dans les manuels de CLE en France [The representation of China in Chinese as foreign language textbooks in France] the question of how China is represented in Chinese as a Foreign Language textbooks published in France. Taking into account that authors of textbooks have to simplify and reduce content, the author of this article sets out to find out whether the time of publication and the nationality of the textbooks’ authors have an impact on a stereotypical representation of China.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors and reviewers for their dedication and cooperation. Our thanks also especially go to Prof. Vassilis Vagios from the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at National Taiwan University for his unending patience and unconditional support.


Haataja, Kim. (2010). “Fach- und sprachenintegrierter Unterricht”. In: Hans-Jürgen Krumm, Christian Fandrych, Britta Hufeisen, Claudia Riemer (Eds.) Deutsch als Fremd- und Zweitsprache. Ein internationales Handbuch. Berlin/New York. Walter de Gruyter, 1047-1052.

Heine, Lena. (2015). “Lernziele”. Zeitschrift für Interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht 20: 2, 15-20.

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